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American Public Transportation Association

 Transit News



Virginia Miller

 Americans Took 2.5 Billion Trips on Public Transportation in the Third Quarter of 2018


Americans took 2.5 billion trips on public transportation in the third quarter of 2018, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Commuter rail ridership increased, with more than half of commuter rail systems showing ridership growth. Bus ridership in communities with populations below 100,000 increased by 1.7 percent and demand response increased by 4.6 percent.  Compared to public transit ridership for the third quarter in 2017, there was ​a 1.75 percent decrease in total ridership. 

“Public transit systems are committed to providing safe and reliable service to the millions of people who depend on public transportation,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “In order to increase mobility options, public transit systems are increasing frequency, improving routing, experimenting with fare changes, and engaging in partnerships to offer the best service possible to meet customers’ needs.”

Blacksburg Transit (Blacksburg, VA) is on track to record ridership as they made changes in their bus service by increasing the frequency on two routes, along with adding two new routes. Flagstaff, AZ ridership increased by 6.5 percent after it put new articulated buses into service, enabling more people to ride.

Sound Transit (Seattle, WA) added two additional weekday commuter rail trips between Tacoma and Seattle in 2017 and continued to see ridership gains through the third quarter of 2018 with ridership up 2.5 percent compared to the previous year. In August 2018, Denton County Transportation Authority (Lewisville, TX) launched its A-train free fare zones and has seen ridership increases in those locations. 

The Rapid (Grand Rapids, MI) relaunched Route 19, its lowest ridership route, in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Spectrum Health.  This partnership re-established Route 19 as a fare-free route, improved its routing, increased peak service frequency and is now a main commuter option for Spectrum Health. The Rapid quadrupled the service on Route 19 and ridership went from roughly 50 rides a day to more than 1,100 rides per day. 

In July 2018, Riverside Transit Agency (Riverside, CA) saw a 2.0 percent increase in ridership and in August RTA’s ridership climbed 3 percent.  One of the reasons for this jump in ridership was a promotional 25 cent fare that led to gains in youth ridership.  During the promotion, which was between June 1 and September 3, RTA buses carried a record 190,000 youth trips. That’s 10 percent higher than the same three-month period last year.  

2018 Third Quarter Ridership Breakdown
Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 0.7 percent with 18 out of 31 public transit systems showing increases. Commuter rail systems in the following cities saw double digit increases in the third quarter of 2018: Orlando, FL (70.0%); San Rafael, CA (65.8%); and Stockton, CA (10.5%). Ridership in the following cities also saw increases in the third quarter: Pompano Beach, FL (8.2%); Nashville, TN (7.3%); Oakland, CA (6.8%); Denver, CO (6.4%); Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA (6.2%); Salt Lake City, UT (5.5%); Newark, NJ (4.4%); Austin, TX (4.4%); Anchorage, AK (4.0%); New York, NY-MTA Long Island Rail Road (2.9%); Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (2.5%); San Carlos, CA (2.3%); Los Angeles, CA (2.0%); Oceanside, CA (1.3%); and Baltimore, MD (0.7%).

Bus ridership in communities with populations less than 100,000 increased by 1.74 percent.  Some examples of these communities are as follows:  Blacksburg, VA (27.1%) Ithaca, NY (7.8%), and Flagstaff, AZ (6.5%).

Overall bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.9 percent. In the third quarter, the following cities showed the highest ridership increases at the nation’s large bus agencies:  Houston, TX (9.2%); Columbus, OH (6.0%); Oakland, CA (4.7%); Pittsburgh, PA (3.8%); Boston, MA (3.4%); Las Vegas, NV (2.4%); Fort Lauderdale, FL (1.5%); and Phoenix, AZ (0.6%).

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership decreased nationally by 2.4 percent.  However, heavy rail in the following cities showed ridership increases for the third quarter of 2018: Philadelphia, PA (7.8%); San Juan, PR (6.4%); Miami, FL (5.9%); Atlanta, GA (1.4%); and Lindenwold, NJ (0.1%)

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased in eight out of 27 transit systems while overall ridership decreased by 3.6 percent.  Systems that showed double digit increases were in the following cities:  Charlotte, NC (55.3%); Seattle, WA-King County Metro (21.6%); Hampton, VA (11.5%); and Houston, TX (10.8%). Light rail ridership in the following cities also saw increases during the third quarter of 2018: Minneapolis, MN (6.3%); Seattle, WA-Sound Transit (6.2%); Newark, NJ (1.6%); and San Jose, CA (0.4%).

Trolleybus ridership decreased by 3.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018.

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organization which represent a $71 billion industry that directly employs 420,000 people and supports millions of private sector jobs. APTA members are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.

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